When Mary Lenz moved from the city to the country in early 2019, she was concerned about finding skilled heart care.
That concern was put quickly to rest after her very first appointment at The Sarah Bush Lincoln Heart Center. After meeting Cardiologist Michael LaMonto, DO, “I knew immediately that I was in good hands,” Mary said. “He just has such a great personality, and he listens.”
She explained, “I was a mess as far as heart disease. I had had double bypass surgery in 2009. I had stents and I had vascular disease.” So, when Mary and her husband, Richard, decided to move to Ashmore after having lived in Tucson, AZ, for 20 years, her adult children worried about her health, including whether she would have access to quality healthcare. “My grandparents were farmers from Oakland. I would visit them during summer when I was growing up, and it was one of the happiest times of my life,” she said. She yearned for that simpler life.
Following bypass surgery, she learned that she had a heart attack at some point, but she didn’t have any of the classic symptoms. “I thought that what I had felt was acid indigestion, since I’m a big, spicy-food eater,” she said. At that time, Mary had also been treated for gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) for five years.
Mary faced another heart scare just one year after moving to Ashmore. “I got a case of heartburn again. Usually, my husband rubs my shoulders and it goes away, but it didn’t go away that time,” she said. Richard drove her to the SBL Emergency Department, and she was transferred to a level-one trauma center. “The ER staff acted so quickly, and they told me I was having a heart attack,” she said. Mary received two stents to open two blocked arteries.
Mary surprised Dr. LaMonto by keeping her previously scheduled appointment with him the day after she returned home. It was then that he encouraged her to begin cardiac rehabilitation classes offered through Monitored Exercise Testing Services (METS) at Sarah Bush Lincoln. “He walked me into METS and introduced me to everyone. Dr. LaMonto is so proud of this program and he really wanted to get me involved,” she said. “I just felt so comfortable with everyone who was taking care of me. I wasn’t a ‘patient.’ I just had these medical angels,” she said, including her new primary care provider Mark Emenecker, DO, with Charleston Family Practice.
Mary faithfully attended cardiac rehab classes three times a week for the duration of the 12-week program. She completed Phase 2 METS at the end of October. “This is the best I’ve felt in 15 years. I have energy and I’ve lost almost 20 pounds,” she said. “What works is being smart and listening to everything the instructors are telling me while I’m working out on the treadmill. The information does stay tucked away and it comes out when I start to make choices.”
Dr. LaMonto has also cut her blood pressure medication in half. “He listens so well, and he works with me to adjust my medication to find the perfect mix. I wouldn’t trade him – or the METS staff – for anything,” she said.
Mary says her health struggles probably date back to the poor lifestyle choices she made when she was a Navy sailor at the end of the Vietnam War. She is amazed by the knowledge she’s since gained. “It’s so easy to pay attention now and make better choices when I go to the grocery store or grab something for a snack. I’ve just learned so much. If I would have known in 2008 what I know today, I may not have had another heart attack,” she said.
With her newfound energy, Mary and her husband have been putting up new kitchen cabinets and building a patio. She is determined to keep up with her new daily exercise regimen, and she looks forward to traveling following the Covid-19 pandemic.
For more information about The Heart Center, or to make an appointment, call 217 238-4960. For more information about cardiac rehabilitation classes offered through METS, call 217 258-2177.